Friday, 6 April 2012

Cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal: Spanakorizo (Σπανακόριζο)

Prices are in euro (valid in Hania). All ingredients are Greek or locally sourced; those marked with * are considered frugal here because they are cheap and/or people have their own supplies.

Spanakorizo is Greece's answer to risotto. It involves making a light sauce with spinach, and adding rice to it. Instead of spinach, cabbage can be used, as well as any other tasty seasonal greens. But the most popular version is the one made with spinach. When I have fresh garden-grown spinach, I make this dish at least once a week, and because the spinach sauce freezes really well (ie before adding the rice), I make plenty of it so that all I have to do mid-week on a working day is to thaw it in the morning so that I can cook it with rice in the afternoon after work.

Spanakorizo can be cooked using a tomato or lemon based sauce, in the same way as most Greek dishes using beans or meat. In our house, we cook more with tomato, but lemon-based dishes make a tangy refreshing and lighter meal. Adding the rice after making the spinach sauce will give the dish a softer texture, resembling a pilaf. But if the rice is added before the spinach and sauteed with the onion until caramelized, it remains 'al dente', and it becomes a risotto. 

Spanakorizo needs only a little cheese to go with it. My kids eat all Greek rice-based dishes with Greek strained yoghurt, but not FAGE yoghurt, because it's hardly ever made with Greek milk these days (usually with mainly German and partly French milk). Non-FAGE strained yoghurt made with Greek milk is usually cheaper; there's no need to be brand-conscious when buying yoghurt.

You need:
1 1/2 cups of rice (~40 cents)
half a cup of olive oil*
1 large onion*
a few cloves of garlic*
half a kilo (or more) of spinach (~50 cents)
a bunch of parsley and/or fresh mint* (I used a variety of fresh aromatic herbs from the garden)
1 cup of tomato sauce (or some tinned tomato: ~50 cents)
1 teaspoon of tomato paste*
2-3 cups of water*
salt, pepper and oregano*

Follow the instructions for my spanakorizo recipe here.

Total cost of the meal for four people: about 1.60 euro, together with the yoghurt; 40 cents per serving.

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